iBooks 2 and iBooks Author: A Quick Review

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Apple announced today at their by invitation only event in New York a new initiative for the iPad: iBooks 2. It’s to allow interactive textbooks to be sold through the iBooks store to create a more effective way to carry your textbooks with you to school. In addition to this method, they also created an ebook authoring tool: iBooks Author.iBooks 2 is essentially the same as iBooks 1, but allows for interactive elements like video media, testing, etc. that have not been available in previous ebook readers. Prior to iBooks 2, these types of interactive books had to be separate apps, though the Yellow Submarine book released by the Beatles and Subfilms, Limited offered a glimpse at what could happen. But other than a significant backend update, the interface and general feel of iBooks 2 is pretty much the same.The real news, at least in my mind, is iBooks Author. Prior to this app, creating any kind of ebook could be a tedious process. It required a lot of skills that many authors would not have, such as HTML or XML experience, layout skills, etc. And while those skills are still very important for most publishing works, iBooks Author takes a lot of that guesswork out.The Mac App, free from the Mac App Store, looks a lot like any of the iWork apps. As mentioned in Gadgetbox’s review, it’s like a hybrid between Keynote and Pages, though I would probably take it a step further and say that it looks a lot like Apple’s now retired iWeb app, both in organization and interface.You are presented with several pre-made templates from which you can select, and add your elements as drag and drop tools. You can add new pages, chapters, prefaces, etc. from the Add Pages tool (top left-hand corner). You can change the view and orientation of the book to see what it would look like in portrait or landscape mode on the iPad, and even preview the book on your iPad when you are done (either with the book or the section.Once done, you will then be able to publish your book. To publish to the iBookstore, you need to first create an iBookstore seller account. Once you have your account created, you can then download iTunes Producer to submit your packaged book as provided by the Publish tool in iBooks Author.The really cool thing is that this doesn’t have to be limited to just textbook publishers, or even instructors who create their own textbooks. Anyone can use these same tools to create and distribute their own works for self-publication. That means professional-looking ebooks are now easier to create for the iBookstore at least, and all with free tools. This will have a huge impact on the self-publication industry that is starting to grow.As an educator, I think this is a great tool. I look forward to creating some sample textbooks to see how the process works, and whether or not it will be something I will be using in the future for my training courses. As a potential author, even of fiction, I think it’s brilliant! The idea that I can take my current work and publish it without the stress of trying to get it noticed by the right agent and going through the publisher’s timeline. Of course there is an argument of quality that would come into play as has been with the self publication market as a whole, but the ease of the process as introduced by iBooks Author takes a lot of the fear out of it.What do you think of Apple’s announcement?